Photo Information

Marines push one of Marine Heavy Helicopter 363’s refurbished CH-53D helicopters on the flight line after rolling it out of an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III. The squadron is now preparing to redeploy to Marine Corps Base Hawaii Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, after completing a seven month tour here. The Marines have flown more than 3,000 hours and transported more than 14,000 personnel during their deployment.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Justis T. Beauregard

‘Red Lions’ complete mission, prepare for redeployment

1 Sep 2010 | Cpl. Ryan Rholes

The Marines have been deployed as part of two combat aviation elements: Marine Air Group 40 and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).

The Marines of HMH-363 have worked 24 hours a day since February, despite the changing seasons and environment, to ensure mission accomplishment.

“The environment is tough,” said Lt. Col. John Dobes, the commanding officer of HMH-363. “The aircraft were affected by the extreme heat and dust, but no matter the temperature or the dust, the Marines stepped up and were not going to let the mission fail.”

The squadron’s 180 Marines worked 210 straight days to ensure their Sea Stallions were maintained and mission-ready.

“I was most impressed by the young crew maintainers. It’s their first deployment and we weren’t sure how they would perform,” said Sgt. Maj. Christopher Robinson, the squadron sergeant major. “But with their level of passion and dedication they would never stop. Even when times were difficult, they never quit. They stepped up to the plate, just as Marines always do, and have done very well here.”

During their deployment, the Red Lions logged more than 3,000 combat flight hours, totaling more than 4,000 sorties, while transporting 14,000 personnel and 1.5 million pounds of cargo during battlefield circulations, inserts and resupply missions.

Personnel transports included more than 80 VIP flights for general officers and numerous Afghan government officials. The squadron also transported International Security Assistance Forces, U.S. military members and Afghan National Army troops.

The Red Lions were also directly involved in the planning and execution of three named operations, and provided follow on support for more than a dozen more.

The maintenance department transformed the material condition and readiness of the squadron’s helicopters while completing more than 10,600 maintenance actions, totaling more than 57,000 man-hours and 20 phase inspections in support of combat operations. The Marines’ work enabled the squadron to meet the high daily combat sortie rates tasked by 3rd MAW (Fwd).

“It’s not about how many hours we flew or the number of passengers we moved, it’s being able to say we came out here and accomplished our mission,” Dobes said.

HMH-363 will execute their last orders from 3rd MAW (Fwd) next week when they begin their journey to their home unit with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing based in Hawaii.